Sunday, January 20, 2013

Seoul Day 3 – Discovering history at Changdeokgung Palace

The morning of my third day here at Seoul was reserved for a tour of the Changdeokgung Palace. As I wanted to get to know more about Korea’s history and culture, I signed-up for a walking tour of the place.  The registration was done online through this site: prior to my visit. Just fill out a form and you will get a confirmation e-mail afterwards. The best thing about this service is that it is absolutely free!

a close encounter with the throne hall

From the place where I’m staying, the palace is just 20 minutes away on foot. Thus, I simply walked towards it.

Upon getting at the designated meeting spot, I saw my tour guide holding a placard of the names of those who registered for the walking tour. I introduced myself and she courteously greeted me back with a smile. After a short round of introductions, I bought the entrance ticket to the palace worth 3,000 KRW.

2013-01-20 11.11e
my ticket stub

TIP: If you plan to visit the Jongmyo Shrine and the 4 palaces in Seoul, purchase the Integrated Ticket of Palaces worth 10,000 KRW. Instead of paying 14,000 KRW if bought separately, you will save 4,000 KRW on this one.

As our group was not yet complete, we waited another 15 minutes. Unfortunately, the other person cannot make it so we just went ahead. Rain also started to fall at this point. Good thing I always bring my umbrella with me!

Constructed as a secondary palace of the Joseon Dynasty in 1405, Changdeokgung soon became the main palace after the Japanese invasion in 1598. It served as the residence of the royal family until Gyeongbokgung was rebuilt in 1868. One distinguishing factor of this palace is how it was built in harmony with the topography. UNESCO also recognized the cultural significance of this palace in 1997 by adding it to the World Heritage List.

the imposing Donhwamun

The first stop was the main gate, Donhwamun. Built in 1412 during the reign of King Taejong, this is the largest of all palace gates. It used to house a bell and a drum on the second floor to signal curfew hours.

water flows serenely at the Geumcheon

Inside, you can find an auspicious stream called Geumcheon. In 1411, a bridge named Geumcheongyo was built – several lucky creatures are perched here. As the oldest stone bridge remaining in Seoul today, this was designated as Treasure No. 1762 just last year (2012). This bridge is the distinctive structure that separates the inside of the palace from the outside.

while crossing the Geumcheongyo

The throne hall, Injeongjeon, is just located nearby. Serving as the area where major state affairs – coronation of a new king and receiving foreign envoys – are conducted, this place was massive in size. In 1908, the throne hall underwent modernization to a more Western style having glass windows, lighting, curtains, and wooden floors.

photo at the front of Injeongjeon

the throne room at Injeongjeon

Located just beside the throne hall is the Seonjeongjeon. This is the place where the king handled routine state affairs along with his high ranking officials. Also, for those who did not notice, this is the only building within Changdeokgung with a roof made up of blue tiles.

inside the Seonjeongjeon

Afterwards, we proceeded to Huijeongdang – the king’s bed chamber. Although this was the intended use of the structure, it soon turned into the king’s workplace. As such, the king spent most of his time here. Apparently, his supposed office, the Seonjeongjeon, was not big enough for that purpose.

main entrance of the Huijeongdang

We went to the back to find Daejojeon, the queen’s residence. One historical event (albeit a bit tragic) that happened here was the last cabinet meeting of the dynasty with regards to Japan’s annexation of Joseon. Oh yeah, the last king’s and queen’s bed chambers can still be found in this structure until now.

main area of the Daejojeon

Just a few meters walk, we found ourselves at Seongjeonggak. This was the area designated as the residence of the crown prince.

one of the main structures of Seongjeonggak

The last place that we went to was the Nakseonjae Complex. This place was constructed to be the king’s quarters during the reign of King Heonjong in 1847. As ordered by the king himself, colorful paint decorations were not to be used here – living up to his humble lifestyle. Another thing, this place is designated as Treasure No. 1764 in 2012.

a portion of the Nakseonjae Complex

Although famed for its Secret Garden, I was not able to go there due to the heavy rains that followed. Maybe I’ll try going next time when the weather is much more cooperative. By the way, the entrance fee to the Secret Garden at the back of the palace is different. You have to purchase another pass worth 5,000 KRW and join a tour group during a given timeslot. All tourists are expected to join a tour group so as to preserve the pristine environment inside.

photo with my walking tour guide


Opening Hours:
April – October: 9:00 – 18:30
December – February: 9:00 – 17:00
November / March: 9:00 – 17:30

Closed on Mondays

How to get here:
Jongno-3 ga Station (Line 1, 3, or 5, Exit 6)
Anguk Station (Line 3, Exit 3)

Found this post informative as well as educational about Korean history and culture? Perhaps you've been to this palace too? Tell me about your opinions and experiences by commenting below or by using the Contact button on the right.

Up next, finding hidden treasures at Insadong.

Want to discover more about my 5 Days and 4 Nights in Seoul, South Korea? Just click the link.


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  2. WOw! i wanna visit Korean soon too! :D


    1. it's very nice during fall with all the colors. try to catch the cherry blossoms if you will go in spring.

    2. Hi! Visiting South Korea this spring. Part of my days' itinerary is Changdeokgung palace then Insadong then end at Cheonggye stream. Is it required for us to join tour in Changdeokgung palace? Can we opt for DYI, minus Secret Garden? Have checked KTO website and apparently, English tour is at 1130 and 1530 only. If indeed required, is it doable if I change my itinerary in the following order: Cheonggye-Changdeokgung(in time for the 1130 tour) -Insadong? Would appreciate your advise. Thanks

    3. Hello TravelSolo! If you just plan to visit the palace grounds, you can DYI - only the Secret Garden requires a tour. Great to visit the stream at any time of the day. Insadong is bustling during the afternoons so I think that's the best time to visit. :) You can read up on my Insadong post here: Insadong for more info! Hope this helps.

    4. Thanks for the clarification.:)

  3. Hi, I really love your travel blog, it's clear and comprehensive! However, I couldn't find the registration website for the tour, do u mind posting the exact URL that u used to make the reservation? Thank you :)

    1. Hi SiNGL3T! Thanks for dropping by. Glad to know you enjoy reading my travel blog.

      Here's the link: Walking Tours

      Just click on the "Reservation" text at the bottom part of the page and it will bring you to another site. Select "City Walking Tours" there. So many to choose from! :) Have fun in Korea!